Mortgage technology and beyond: Pruning and planningJohn D. Svirskyinternet, technology, multiple listing services
Last week, I went without an Internet connection for two hours.
I felt like a junkie without his fix, an alcoholic in need of a
drink, a foodie needing the next donut; actually, like all three
combined. In other words, I was crazed. Has this ever happened to
you? Worse yet, my bookkeeper came to the office the other day
hysterical; her Microsoft operating system would not let her into
her computer. No matter what she did, the computer, with a mind of
its own, would not accept her password. Mind you, she has more than
40 clients and all of her data was on that computer. Do you back up
your data regularly? You will be surprised how many people don't.
Do you have a plan if your computer crashes? Most of you who have
read my columns for the last 15 or so years (truthfully, I have
lost track) have come to know me as a techie. I love to try out new
software and share the tools that I use in my own mortgage
brokerage business. This month, I want to share with you two basic
fundamentals of good business habits: pruning and planning.
Maybe I should have started this article, "Hi, I am John, and I
am addicted to technology." Now you say, "Hi, John"that way, I
don't feel alone. Believe it or not, it is not the technology that
interests me. I view computers, cell phones, Blackberries and Treos
as electronic servants. I view technology as a tool, as a means to
an end. In principlewhen it worksit makes me so efficient that I do
more in one day than it used to take a week to do. I have been a
mortgage broker since 1980. I remember when a residential mortgage
loan could legitimately take eight to 12 weeks to close, and three
months before all of the verifications were in by snail mail.
Appraisals did not have multiple listing services or the appraisers
were not able to look in their computer database for comparable
salesthey had to go to the town hall. Well, you get the idea.
Getting a Fannie or Freddie approval in five minutes seemed like
something from another world. That world is today's reality.
This market is tough (I usually use a more graphic word). The
new-agers and the professional motivators call it challenging. That
is true; this market is definitely challenging. I have lost repeat
clients because brokers out there are basically working for free. I
have heard quotes that are below my cost. There are a lot of
companies just trying to maintain overhead and aren't worried about
profits. For the rest of us who love helping others but also like
to be paid for our servicesafter all, a servant is worth his
laborit is time to step aside and map out a new strategy. For those
of you who have gotten this far into the article, that is what we
are going to do now.
This weekend, I was pruning some lilac and verbena bushes in the
garden. They had provided wonderful color and outstanding scents
for weeks. Now the show was over. I could just leave the dead
flower heads on the bush, or I could prune them. By pruning the
dead flowers and actually cutting back the bush, it permitted the
plant to focus on new growth and not spend energy on what was
beautiful last week but is gone today. Nature is so smart. Many
times while I was up on the ladder, I cut the dead flowers thinking
that I had gotten them all. It was only after I got off of the
ladder and stepped aside that I could see what I missed. Sometimes,
I need to step outside of my business to see what is going on, to
reevaluate. And sometimes, it is good to do nothing but wait.
Being in the business as long as I have, I have lived through
many down marketshell, I started when prime was 21 percent. I
remember saying back then that it could only get better, and of
course, it did. One thing that I have found is that most of the
down markets have not lasted more than 18 to 24 months. It is the
financial world's way of weeding out mortgage brokers and seeing
who is really serious about this business. It also forces each of
us to clarify our plans and how we intend to survive during this
period of shakeout. This is what I am doing.
For many months now, I have been writing articles about the
value of education. There are many phenomenal seminars out there. I
have attended several and encourage you to do the same, because I
wanted to give myself the tools to succeed where others would not.
I have found one thing that is consistently true: the most
successful mortgage brokers, just like the most successful athletes
and artists, are always honing, practicing and improving their
skills. We mortgage brokers need to do the same. One way is by
taking advantage of some of the wonderful courses out there. Many
of the lenders offer free educational seminars using one of the
myriad of educational speakers. It is a real good idea to go. Each
time I do, I learn something that I then apply.
Since Business Plan 2006, LoanToolbox's seminar in early
December 2005 ("Mortgage Technology and Beyond ... Business Plan
2006, The Mortgage Press, November 2005), I have been finessing my
techniques in time management. David Allen's book "Getting Things
Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" and his follow-up book
"Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life"
are life-changing books. I have been shocked at how much time I
actually waste each day because I have not been clear about my
focus and have not utilized my time in an efficient manner. One of
the simplest and most important concepts is to leave your e-mail
inbox empty at the end of the daywow! Using Outlook templates helps
organize the flood of e-mail messages I receive into categories so
that I am not spending hours each day just reading and reacting to
e-mail. For example, I have set up rules that sort incoming e-mail
into one of several folders within Outlook: "Deals,"
"Non-Business," "Items for Weekend Review," "Items Waiting for
Someone Else's Action," "Phone Calls," "Errands," etc. Also, by
creating folders such as "Immediate Action," "Pending Actions" and
"Stuff That Can Wait," when I have downtime, I can go to the
respective folder and work on them. The one that really helped me
manage my time was "Weekend Stuff." All of the various e-mail
messages that involve reading, newsletters and stuff that looks
interesting but has no immediate value to my business day, I save
for the weekend. What a difference this makes. Just follow this one
tip and you will see the difference immediately.
Another important book to read is "Time Traps: Proven Strategies
for Swamped Salespeople" by Todd Duncan, which drills home the
importance of having an assistant or letting others handle the
support duties while you do the work that brings in the money. In
another of his books, "The Power to be Your Best," Todd talks about
something that resonates with meliving a balanced lifestyle. The
truly successful mortgage broker also has a home life, a personal
life, a spiritual life, etc. I live by that philosophy, and Todd
shows you how to do it. Many of his graduates have gone on to do
more than $100 million a year following this training. Imagine
being home for dinner each night and still doing your personal best
volume. Todd's training and seminars are outstanding. I have been
to several, and I have never been disappointed and have always left
feeling inspired and pumped." Another book, which has become all
the rage, is Douglas R. Andrew's "Missed Fortune 101: A Starter Kit
to Becoming a Millionaire." Superstars like Stephen Marshall have
taken Andrew's course and have changed their already very
successful mortgage careers by cross-selling insurance with the
mortgage as a financial instrument. They use The Mortgage Coach to
demonstrate how leveraging the mortgage and putting the difference
into some form of annuity or other financial instrument provides
more equity for the borrower after five, seven or 10 years than if
they had just paid down their mortgage or made a larger down
All of the education is wonderful. All of the seminars and books
can really motivate and inspire. But without action, there is no
food on the tablefaith without action is dead. I want to encourage
youand I will be doing the sameto use the summer to step aside from
your business. Do what nature intended, which is to take some time
for rest and relaxation and to do things outside of the mortgage
business. Allow the mind, body and spirit to be replenished and
recharged. That way, when September comes, we can be refreshed for
the final quarter of the year. I will be asking myself questions
"What aspects of the business do I enjoy doing? What aspects do
I not like?
"Is there anyone in the industry doing something that I wish I was
"Who is making the money that I want to be making? What is he
doing that I am not?
"Who lives the life and lifestyle that I would like?
"Is there anyone, alive or past, that I can take as my mentor?
What would they do in my situation?
The most important point is not a question, but a statement from
the master himselfWilliam Shakespearein a scene from Hamlet. It is
when Polonius gives his son Laertes advice before he departs,
stating, "This above all: to thine own self be true."
We will have plenty of time to get back to technology reviews in
the coming months, but the best advice that I intend to follow is
Polonius'. For each of us in our own way are about to start a new
journey into untapped and uncharted territorya much more defined
and challenging marketplace where just waiting for the phone to
ring and then saying "I provide service" just won't cut it. Many
mortgage brokers just won't cut it and will be in new professions
by this time next year. Take the time now to do more than just
plantake the time to think, to be inspired, to relax and to see a
new future. Every gardener must first plan the garden before
planting the first seed. Enjoy the summer, and I will talk with you
John D. Svirsky has been a mortgage broker for 24 years,
doing both commercial and residential mortgages. He is also a
volunteer firefighter, avid cigar enthusiast and cook. He may be
reached by phone at (845) 424-3388 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.